Upon Further Review: NIU Offense Comment Count

Brian September 6th, 2005 at 5:04 PM

This will be a regular feature, a twitchingly obsessive play-by-play review of each game. The Yards After Contact/Catch field stopped getting filled in because I got a little overloaded this weekend. Skip to the end if you'd just like some overview:

Down Distance Line Play Ballcarrier Yards YAC Notes
1 10 M26 Rush Hart 3 2  
2 7 M29 Pass Massaquoi 5 4  
3 2 M34 Rush Hart 2 0  
1 10 M36 Pass Breaston 15 15 slip screen
1 10 O49 Run Hart 4 2  
2 6 O45 Pass Avant Inc   Accurate throw, Avant falls down
3 6 O45 Pass Masaquoi 8 3  
1 10 O37 Pass Breaston Inc   Endzone, Tough diving catch for Breaston but catchable
2 10 O37 Pass Hart 4 4 Screen
3 6 O33 Pass Avant 18 0  
1 10 O15 Run Hart 6 1  
2 4 O9 Run Hart 3 1  
3 1 O6 Run Hart 2 0  
1 G O4 Pass Avant 4   TD, beauty fade, beauty catch
Drive Notes: Henne does not get a sniff of pressure the entire drive. Henne starts out with 8 passes, all of which are dead on the money except maybe the Breaston bomb, which was still catchable.
1 10 M22 Run Hart 12 2 jukes a guy at 4 yards
1 10 M34 Pass Hart 11 8 slips a tackle at 3 yards
1 10 M45 Run Grady 3    
2 7 M48 Pass Hart Inc   both Hart & Grady on field, NIU sends 6, think Henne just throws it away.
3 7 M48 Pass Avant 18   NIU again blitzes, great great protection, Henne steps up into the pocket. Slick as hail, this play.
1 10 O34 Pass Hart 34 34 Hart popped that mofo! Like boom! Tough Actin' Tinactin!
Drive Notes: Es el partido del Hart! Also some good pass protection and Avant. Henne has thrown 12 passes. One was intentionally inaccurate, another was a bomb that slipped between Breaston's fingers.  
1 10 M29 Run Hart 5 2 Draw
2 5 M34 Pass Tabb Inc   possible interference, ball not particularly catchable
3 5 M34 Pass Avant 13   High and behind avant, GREAT catch
1 10 M47 Pass Tabb 11   Fearful of the Tabbspeed, the runoff and stop route is good for a first down
1 10 O42 Penalty       False start on Ruben Riley
1 15 O47 Run Hart 4   Could have picked up some more yards, but he was indecisive
2 11 O43 Pass Avant 6    
3 5 O37 Penalty       offsides
1 10 O32 Run Hart 5   This play is helpfully excised from the tape, thanks ABC.
2 5 O27 Run Hart 4 2  
3 1 O22 Run Grady 2 1  
1 10 O20 Pass Breaston Inc   Another shot into the endzone, overthrown by a couple yards, off Breaston's fingertips
2 10 O20 Run Hart 9   double pull on the OL
3 1 O11 Run Hart 1    
1 G O10 Penalty       Avant interfered with in the endzone... probably a touchdown without it.
1 G O2 Run Hart 2   leapy mctouchdown
Drive notes: Methodical. You can see some Henne inaccuracy. XP blocked... on replay doesn't appear to be Rivas' fault at all. That dude got major penetration.
1 10 M42 Pass Breaston 0 0 Henne stares Breaston down. Coverage is zone here and he should know that from Breaston's motion and find a second option.
2 10 M42 Pass Avant 25   Slick.
1 10 O33 Run Hart 1   Oligbo misses his block and forces Hart to cut into the middle of the defense.
2 9 O32 Run Hart 0   outside sweep predicated on Hart beating the corner, which he doesn't.
3 9 O32 Pass Breaston Inc   Another shot at the endzone, the one Breaston catches out of bounds by six inches. Better footwork == TD. The throw is fine.
Drive notes: Missed FG ends the drive. Tom probably busy shoving needles into his Rivas voodoo doll.
1 10 M13 Run Hart 7   Finally a good block from the fullback (Thompson) springs Hart for a nice gain.
2 3 M20 Pass Massaquoi 6   Massaquoi's third and last catch.
1 10 M26 Pass Hart 0   Avant misses a block, blowing up the screen. It's okay, Jason.
2 10 M26 Pass Avant 17   Rollout to the left, and Henne displays his Elway-level cannon by calmly bulleting one to Avant. A foot farther away from the sideline and this is a lot of running and chasing.
1 10 M43 Pass Breaston Inc   Bomb to a double-covered Breaston. Breaston did have the corner beat.
2 10 M43 Pass/Scramble Henne 2    
3 8 M45 Pass Ecker inc   Henne finally gets some pressure and badly overthrows Ecker, who probably would have rumbled for the first.
Drive Notes: Nice punt. Nice gunning by Hood, fumble, it's Michiball.
1< /td> 10 O14 Run Hart 9   Some Hart magic here.
2 1 O5 Run Hart 4   Makes 3 yards with linebackers draped all over him
1 G O1 Run Grady 1   Leapy McTouchdown: The Sequel
Drive notes: yay.
1 10 M24 Run Hart 2   No real push from the OL.
2 8 M26 Run Hart 7   Toss sweep
3 1 M33 Run Hart 5    
1 10 M38 Pass Massaquoi Inc   Waggle again against the natural flow of Henne's body again. Throws it really low to Mass, should have been a first down.
2 10 M38 Run Hart 8   Nice blocking up front.
3 2 M46 Run Hart 3   Makes this himself.
1 10 M49 Pass Dutch Inc   Henne throws this away. Breaston's route was clearly supposed to pick Dutch's defender, but the defender avoids it. The play isn't there. Smart decision.
2 10 M49 Pass Avant 11   Easy. Like stealing.
1 10 O40 Pass Breaston 7   Slip screen again.
2 3 O33 Run Grady 14   NIU gets plowed and Grady hits the hole like it's Tina.
1 10 O19 Run Hart 5    
2 5 O14 Run Hart 0   WLB is left unblocked on this counter-type thing and makes the tackle in the hole. Possible miscommunication as both Henige and Kraus double the DT on that side.
3 5 O14 Run Hart 4   Again a little bit of a strange design with a LB unblocked.
4 1 O11 Run Grady 0   Dunno. Line push seems to have been okay but a blitzing linebacker vaults the collapsed line and makes a nice play. Grady actually got a yard or two after getting nailed but to no avail.
Drive notes: Bo says our tacking is atrocioius, but I haven't seen anyone close enough to miss a tackle.
1 10 O37 Run Grady 13   He used POWER!
1 10 O24 Pass Grady 16   Screen pass.
1 G O8 Run Grady 4   Line is smashing them.
2 G O4 Run Grady 2   Fumble.Bad one, too.
Drive notes: This was going swimmingly until the fumble, showcasing Grady. He looks very good, more of a N/S runner than Hart and possibly a little faster. Of course, he's now tied Hart for career fumbles.
1 10 O26 Run Grady 4   This sweep was going to go for at least ten if Grady doesn't get tripped by the turf monster.
2 6 O22 Pass Massaquoi Inc   Throws well behind Massaquoi rolling out; his second inaccurate pass on the rollout.
3 6 O22 Pass Dutch 2   Again well behind the receiver. If accurate, Dutch gets the first down easily.
Drive notes: some idiot a couple rows behind me was sarcastically accusing Carr of being quote "the field-goal lovingest coach" unquote in football. Don't be that guy.
1 10 O34 Run Jackson 6   Gutz in.
2 4 O28 Penalty       Offsides
1 10 O23 Pass Avant 12   Damn that's an impressive throw off balance, unset, rolling to the wrong side.
1 10 O11 Run Martin 5    
2 5 O6 Run Martin 1    
3 4 O5 Pass No one Inc   Gutierrez rolls out, no one open, throws OOB.
Drive notes: Hello el tiempo del garbage.  

I'm classifying all of Henne's throws this year as one of six categories as seen below:

Team Dead on Catchable Inaccurate Dangerous/Bad read Throwaways Hit While Throwing/Line Deflected
NIU 19 4 5 2 2 1

The ball deflected by the line was also offsides on NIU so the play does not appear above, and I might have been harsh on Henne by placing the screen pass where Breaston got lit up into the "Dangerous/Bad read" category, but there you go.

That's a very impressive performance and night and day from the opener against Miami (and, honestly, a large portion of last year) when Henne would have probably had 5-6 dangerous reads a game but usually get away with most of them. Watching the games around the country it was apparent just how decisive and authoritative Henne was. A lot of players got into trouble by hesitating to make sure they had the correct read, but Henne was bang bang bang. If opponents don't get pressure on Henne (and NIU hit him exactly once all day), he and Avant will dissect them.

Any complaints about the lack of passing across the middle are null and void; more than half of Avant's catches were caught 15-20 yards downfield, slicing through the seams in the NIU zone. Complaints about bombing it deep to Breaston and thus nullifying his quickness are null and void. He was ridiculously open on three of four downfield attempts, like two to four yards open, and he got that open by using hestation moves and bursting upfield with that amazing change of direction he has. He's going to be a tough cover for opponents this year. Damned if you do, damned if you don't with him. That was probably one of the most heartening things about the offense: seeing that Breaston clearly had the old voodoo back, even if he was a hair away from making his plays. Now if we can just force someone to punt.

The run game was effective but not explosive unless you count the screens as a part of that. The offense was grindingly consistent, getting 3-5 yards almost every carry, but I still have some concerns about the run blocking of the offensive line and whatever fullbacks they choose to employ. The fourth-and-one stop was no good, but other than that there wasn't a short yardage situation Michigan didn't convert all day. (Also: Lloyd went for it. Thumbs up... just wish he'd made it so he'd be more likely to try it again.) However, there were few gaping-hello-secondary holes that would have allowed Grady/Hart to get somewhere really fast and perhaps break a long one.

The fact that the offense only had one penalty, a false start on Ruben Riley, sums up the general performance of the O: slick, put together, methodical, and unstoppable. The only thing that halt ed Michigan drives were some inaccurate Henne passes and some small trouble on third and short. Notre Dame will probably try to come with a ton of pressure next week. If they don't get to Henne they'll be dead in the water; Michigan will pick their secondary apart. That'll be the key to the Michigan offense in the next game, effectively combating an extensive blitz package. Henne has to make a lot of hot reads and the OL has to pick up blitzes as well as they did against NIU. If those two things happen, expect MOTS from the Michigan offense, except perhaps with more big plays against the more aggressive D--and perhaps a few big plays for ND.

Grade: A-.